Photographing models can be a lot of fun. Making beautiful photos of beautiful people is a wonderful way to express yourself photographically and artistically. But sadly there are many photographers who get into this field of photography just to take pictures of naked women or to try and get dates or worse casual sexual encounters. These photographer’s are known as GWC’s or “Guys With Cameras”. Some think this is a badge of honor or others gladly call themselves GWC’s as a recognition than they are novices. The thing is GWC is nothing to be proud of.
When you decide you want to photograph another person in a private setting, be it a studio, your home, their home or some secluded location, you become responsible for their welfare. You’re not just someone with a camera to take pictures. Their health, safety and comfort are 100% your responsibility. You want everyone involved with your project to have fun and more importantly you want them to want to work with you again.
Here are a few guidelines to help make your models comfortable, to feel safe and to have fun at your shoots.
1. Model Photography isn’t Dating.
Don’t hit on the models. You probably shouldn’t even flirt with them. It’s okay to say “You look great” or “Great Pose”… but “Nice ass!” is not something a model want’s to hear. It will make them feel uncomfortable and there is a good chance it’s going to show in the photos. You should not hit on them during a shoot or expect any thing inappropriate. A model shoot should follow the same guidelines as an office environment. Sexual harassment doesn’t have to happen in an office building. Your photo shoot has all the expectations that any other business environment has. Yes, sometimes the model’s wardrobe (or lack there of) is not exactly “Business Casual”, but you still have to respect the model’s right to be treated professionally. Since models don’t have an Human Resources Director to report you too, they will use word-of-mouth which can damage your reputation and your reputation is too important.
This isn’t a way for guys to meet girls or the other way around. But people do meet at the shoot and sometimes there will be chemistry and there have been good, long-lasting relationships formed from that initial working together. If there is something special or there seems to be some interest from both parties, then you should wait until after the shoot and not immediately after the shoot is over but maybe the next day or later that week. The shoot is not the time to pursue relationships.
2. You should avoid touching the model.
I’m sure there will be quite a few people who may disagree with this. Your job is to take photos. You need to learn to use verbal instructions to tell the model how to pose. If you need to remove some lint or adjust some hair, try to have the model fix it herself. There will be times when she can’t make the adjustment herself. The best thing for this is to have an assistant, preferably female, who can mange these adjustments for you. Usually this is the role of your makeup artist or hair stylist as its some of their touch-up work. Most models are more comfortable with the stylist touching them rather than the photographer.
Regardless, assistant, stylist, or in the case where you have to do the touching. Always ask permission first. Clearly state what you are touching and why you need to touch it. “May I adjust your hand to where I would like it?” or “You have some fly away hair, may I move it?” are good professional ways to get permission to make the adjustments. You should even ask your stylists to ask permission first. It’s common courtesy and it sets the bounds of contact. If she says “No”, it’s a no. Take the photo with the fly away hair.
In today’s sue-happy society its in your benefit to have an assistant at your shoots even if they are in public, because if something happens and a jury gets involved, he-said-she-said tends to side with the woman.
3. Deliver your photos in a timely manner.
Besides being perved on, probably the single biggest complaint from models about photographers is their inability to deliver photos. Part of this isn’t biting off more than you can chew. Many new photographers get caught in a trap that limits their ability to deliver photos. It starts by booking a shoot and then promising to deliver all of the photos from the shoot. You shoot 500 photos during the shoot wanting to make sure you don’t screw up and then book a shoot the next weekend. Well guess what, unless this is your full time job, you’re not going to post process 500 photos in a week, burn them to a CD and mail them out to the model before you have your next shoot and another 500 photos to edit and process and then another shoot and now you find that you’re way behind in your ability to deliver.
Models may think they want 500 photos from a shoot, but that’s only because they’ve been told that. In reality, they only need the best shots and you really only want to have your best photos out there anyway. If you only have to deliver 10-30 photos, you will find that’s much more manageable than 500 photos. You may find you only want to do deliver even fewer photos. There is no standard, but you should try and deliver enough photos that the model feels she is getting her value from the shoot.
Along these lines…. if you have a stylist who’s also working for images, make sure you shoot images for her as well. They always want close-ups of the hair and makeup. They are part of your team too and should not be neglected. Nothing irritates a stylist more than not getting their photos too.
You do need to deliver what you promised and not 3-4 months later.
4. Be a good communicator.
Setting the models (and stylists) expectations on what to expect is key in making sure she feels like she’s getting her value from the shoot. This all starts with good communications skills. In addition to setting up the shoot, planning wardrobe and location, defining the deliverables, how they they will be delivered, and when they will be delivered are just as important.
Good communications starts with your initial contact. Be professional. Clearly spell out your expectations for the shoot, what is expected of them, the time location and duration of the shoot along with the compensation. Provide good ways for them to get back with you. The quality of your initial communications sets the tone for the rest of your shoot.
Follow up with those involved at least one week before the shoot to make sure everything is still good to go. This is a good time to remind the model to have her nails (both finger and toes) done. Make sure the model has directions and your cell phone number. You should make sure she responds with her’s too. People get lost. Traffic jams happen and communicating problems helps lower the frustrations of everyone involved when communications are flowing well.
4a. Avoid Surprises
This is really a sub-part of your communications…. But models seriouslly dislike showing up at a shoot to do one thing only to find out you have different plans in mind. The worst offender is “How about shooting some nudes?” Sometimes asking someone to pose nude is difficult or uncomfortable specially if you don’t know them. As you get more comfortable during the shoot or maybe they are showing comfort at being nude, you might get up the courage to ask. Or perhaps that’s just your “move”. Either way, it’s a bad idea. Models don’t like these surprises. They have an expectation coming in to the shoot and you should work to meet those expectations. If you think you may want to do nudes, broach the subject with them in advance. Help set their expectations. You will be more respected as a photographer by the models if you do.
By the way, models being nude in front of a photographer like while changing wardrobe is considerably different than being photographed nude for the world to see. Don’t read that as a desire to shoot nude.
This is a point of contention for a lot of photographers. There are horror stories about models who bring escorts who end up being thieves. Escorts have a reputation for wanting to direct the photography. The most common issue is that the models clam up when the escort is present, paying more attention to them, getting approval for what they are doing rather than paying attention to the photographer.
Lets address these one at a time. First, when you invite people you don’t know into your home, studio or to a remote location, there will always be a risk that someone will want to steal from you. Escorts have been accused of stealing (and they probably have). But your model very well could be your thief or even your stylist. Keeping the escort in visual range of you or your assistant can help with this.
Escorts turned directors can be a real problem but while this “has” happened, it doesn’t happen very often. In fact more often than not, escorts do not create problems.
The other issue is with the escort being a distraction. This is a very valid concern and this does happen more often than not. The reason that it happens is that that models want to bring their husbands, boy friends, or a close family member that they will seek approval from before they pose. The model may not realize she is doing it and may be quite subtle. It’s very common for photographers to allow escorts but ban people the model is emotionally attached too. Models need to respect this. This is the most common issue with escorts.
Okay, with all these problems, why should I allow them? Well you want the model to be comfortable right? There are too many pervs out there, who won’t read this post or will ignore it. If you don’t have a working relationship with the model and you want to establish that, one of the best ways is to let them bring an escort. Once they know you’re for real, on subsequent shoots, they will be less likely to feel the need to have one. The chance that you will be ripped off, while possible is not probable. If you run into a director, simply end the shoot. So you’re left with the biggest issue, which is the boy-friend syndrome and that’s easy to work around by simply telling them up front, you can have an escort, just not a boy-friend/significant other or parents. Note: When working with models under 18, you should require them to bring their mother to the shoots since only someone over 18 can sign the model release. The exception to this would be agency represented models who’s agent will be managing the model releases, though its still a good idea to have mom present.
This goes back to communications. If you are clear with the model up front about the rules for the escorts and set the boundaries, then there should not be issues going forward. You should also let them know about your crew in particular if you’re providing a female assistant or stylist for her comfort. NOTE: If you’re working with male models, or if you’re a female photographer, feel free to flip genders in this post.
6. Don’t be a perv.
Thought we addressed this above? Well there is more. Try to not stare at the model’s privates. Try to avoid your privates becoming a focal point of the shoot too. If you can’t maintain your hormones, perhaps you should not be in this area of photography.
Model photography is a fun aspect of photography to participate in, but it requires more than the photographer to happen. You have to have a model and frequently a stylist and they want to have fun too. Their fun starts with being photographed in a comfortable, safe setting and as you’re the project manager, it’s your responsibility to see to their comfort, saftey and happiness. When everyone is feeling good about a shoot, the results will be show!
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